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Exceptional Talent

Stage 1 – Exceptional Talent Endorsement

The Designated Competent Bodies

At stage 1, one of five Designated Competent Bodies will advise the Home Office whether you meet its eligibility criteria andhave reached the appropriate level to be endorsed under Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent).

The recognised Designated Competent Bodies are:

  • Arts Council England –for arts and culture applications;

  • The British Academy –for humanities and social science applications;

  • The Royal Society -for natural sciences and medical science research applications;

  • The Royal Academy of Engineering –for engineering applications; and

  • TechCity UK –fordigital technology applications.

The criteria applied by each Designated Competent Body when deciding whether you show Exceptional Talent or Exceptional Promise appear in Appendix L of the Immigration Rules.  

Each Designated Competent Body specifies the evidence you mustsend to demonstrate that you meet their criteria. They only need copies of these documents; they do not usually require the original documents but they reservethe right to request originals if we wish.  We will nottake responsibility for irreplaceable and/or valuable items provided as part of an application.

They cannot advise which Designated Competent Body is best placed to consider your skill set.  You cannot ask for two Designated Competent Bodies to assess one stage 1 application. This document provides guidance on what specialties each Designated Competent Body cover and you should use this to select which is most appropriate.

Designated Competent Bodies have two sets of criteria:

  • Exceptional Talentcriteria for applicants who have already demonstrated that they have made a significant contribution as a leader to their field;

  • and Exceptional Promise criteria for applicants who may be earlier in their careers but havealready shown the potential to make significant contributionsas a future leader in their field

Some Designated Competent Bodies offer fast - track options for ce rtain applicants, details of which are included later in this guidance .

Further details on the Designated Competent Body criteria and requirements areset out in at Annex A of this documen.  You should fully read these requirements before submitting an application.

If you receive an endorsement from the Designated Competent Body, your stage 1 application will be approved by the Home Office and you can move onto stage 2 of the process.You are not able to live and work in the UK as a Tier 1(Exceptional Talent) migrant until you have made a successful stage 2 application.

The limit

Tier 1 (ExceptionalTalent) is subject to a limit of 1,000 endorsements in total per year (beginning on 6 April one year and ending on 5
April the following year).  This is split into 2 phases with half the limit available from 6 April to 30 September each year; and the body’s remaining unused allocated endorsements made available from 1 October to 5 April each year.

The limit is allocated between the Designated Competent Bodies as follows:

  • Arts Council England -250 places; 

  • The Royal Society -250 places;

  • The Royal Academy of Engineering -150 places; 

  • The British Academy -150 places;

  • TechCity UK -200 places.

Places can be reallocated between Designated Competent Bodies withinthe overall limit of 1,000, if agreed by the relevant bodies

If the limit for aDesignated Competent Body is reached at any point, this will be clearly stated on the

Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) section ofthe GOV.UK website so you should check this before making an application.  
Further information would appear here onlyif a limit is reached: the routeopened in 2011, no Designated Competent Body has
reached the maximum number of endorsements,

For information about how the Isle of Man’s Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route affects the UK limit, 

Timing your stage 1 application 

The service standards for stage 1 applications can be found at

Stage 1 is notan immigration application.  This means that if you are already inside the United Kingdom and your leave is expiring, a stage 1 application will not extend your leave while a decision is made.  If your leave expires while your stage 1 application is under consideration, you will be considered to be overstaying in the United Kingdom.  

Whilst it is not mandatory, it is possible to submit the stage 1 application and the stage 2 application at the same time. This may be useful if your current leave is due to expire imminently,and you wish to retain your current permission to live and work in the UK whilst your endorsement application is being considered.  If you are making both applications at the same time,you must indicate this on the application forms so that your stage 2 application is held pending the result of your stage 1 application.  However, if your stage 1 application is unsuccessful then both applications will be refused and you will lose both the stage 1 and stage 2 fees. They will not retain your stage 2 application to allow you to reapply for stage 1.

Applications for stage 1 cannot be submitted in person at a Premium Service Centre (PSC)or at a visa application centre
overseas. If you submit a stage 1 application at the PSC it will be rejected. You will be charged a rejection fee and your appointment booking fee will not be refunded.

As stage 1 is not an immigration application, you can travel while it is under consideration.  
There is no requirement to submit your passport at this stage(unless you are simultaneously submitting a stage 2 application).
You can submit your stage 1 application while you are in the UK even if you are in a category which does not allow you to switch intoTier 1 (Exceptional Talent).

You should ensure that you are contactable via the email address provided on your form in case further information is required and because notification of your stage 1 decision will be emailed to that address.

Unsuccessful stage 1 applications  

If your application for endorsement is unsuccessful and you think that a mistake has been made, you can ask us to
check the decision by means of an endorsement review.  Full guidance on endorsement reviews can be found in AnnexC of
this guidance.

Alternatively,you can make a new application for stage 1 or make an application under a different immigration route if you meet the relevant criteria for that route.  Both of these options will require you to pay a new application fee.

Stage 2-Immigration application

At stage 2,the Home Office will consider immigration aspects of your application including whether General Grounds for Refusal apply and, if you are in the United Kingdom already, whether you can switch into Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent).

You must submit a copy of your endorsement letter that was emailed to you when your stage 1 application was approved unless you have submitted stage 1 and stage 2 simultaneously(in which casethese will be linked by the Home Office).
If you are applying from inside the UK, you must make a ‘valid’ application.  Further details on how to submit a valid application are 
provided when you complete your form.

You must apply for stage 2 within three months of gaining your endorsement or your immigration application will be refused and you will have to re-apply for endorsement. 

General Grounds for Refusal

General Grounds for Refusal are Immigration Rules which apply to all applicants, regardless of which route they have applied for.  E
ven if you qualify under the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) rules there may be other reasons (such as your immigration history, whether you have previously provided fraudulent documents to the Home Office, whether you have been convicted of a serious crime,etc) thatmay lead tothe application being refused.

Further details on General Grounds for Refusal
are available here:


This is only relevant if you make your application from inside the United Kingdom.

You can switch into Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) from your current category of leave to remain in the United Kingdom if you have 
permission to stay as:

  • a Tier 1 Migrant;

  • a Tier 2 Migrant; or

  • a Tier5 (TemporaryWorker)Migrant, sponsored in the Government Authorised Exchange sub-category in an exchange scheme forsponsored researchers.

If you hold any other type of leave,you are unable to switch in-country into the Tier1 (Exceptional Talent)category and you would instead have to return overseas to apply for entry clearance.  If you do this,you should ensure that your stage 1 application is still valid (see Timing your stage 2 application).

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